Panel Paper: The Impact of Cuts in Public Disability Benefit Amounts to Safety Net Program Participants

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 8:20 AM
Salon III A (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Debra Brucker and Andrew Houtenville, University of New Hampshire
BACKGROUND: Many Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries concurrently participate in other means tested and social insurance programs. Modifications to both DI and SSI are under consideration given current and projected fiscal constraints.

OBJECTIVE: To provide recent data about levels of safety net cross-participation among working age DI and SSI program participants and to estimate how changes to benefit levels in these programs might influence income for beneficiaries who are and who are not participating in other safety net programs.  

METHODS: Data from the 2012 version of the Current Population Survey – Annual Social and Economic Supplement is used to describe income, current levels of program participation, average public disability benefit levels, and the share of family income, household income and Supplemental Poverty Measurement resources received through public disability benefits. Benefit reductions are estimated to assess impact on the beneficiary population.

RESULTS: Disability benefits comprise a large portion of beneficiary family income, household income, and Supplemental Poverty Measurement resources, particularly for those beneficiaries who are concurrently participating in other safety net programs. Reductions in the dollar amount of benefits will have the largest relative impact on those beneficiaries who are already participating in other safety net programs.

CONCLUSION:  Policymakers seeking to modify the DI and SSI programs should consider the impact on the vulnerable portion of the beneficiary population that is already reliant on other public programs for economic well-being.